Case Study

Admit NY + Real Housewives of New York: Leah and Kier McSweeny's Admissions Consulting Journey

Admit NY + Real Housewives of New York: Leah and Kier McSweeny's Admissions Consulting Journey
June 29, 2021

Admit NY had the pleasure of partnering with fashion designer Leah McSweeney and her daughter Kier during the 2020-2021 admissions season. Kier’s admissions journey was briefly featured on Real Housewives of New York (season 13, episode 8), but of course, the show only captured a small portion of our in-depth admissions consulting process. Here’s a bit more about Kier’s path to finding her best-fit high school:

When our founder, Whitney Shashou, connected with Leah in August of 2020, Leah was exploring how to transition Kier out of public school and into a private school that would fit Kier’s unique goals. The first step of our consulting process is always to ask as many questions as possible about the student and family’s goals; these questions included:

  • What do you love about Kier’s current school?
  • What factors aren’t the best fit in Kier’s current school?
  • What are you looking for in a private school?
  • What are your non-negotiables?
  • What are Kier’s academic strengths and areas for improvement?
  • What is Kier’s learning style? How does she process information best?
  • What is an example of a school activity or assignment that Kier really enjoyed, and why?
  • and many more!

From our initial conversations, it was clear that Kier would prefer a school with accessible, supportive teachers and a low student:teacher ratio, because Kier feels most set up for success amongst small classes with individualized attention from teachers. Kier loves hands-on, experimental, project-based learning; she’s also very artistic, and loves the chance to pair her creativity with school projects. Kier and Leah also wanted a wider variety of extracurricular options from a new school, and a strong school community where both Kier and Leah could feel at home. But most importantly, Leah wanted Kier to have options for choosing where to go to school; Leah felt like her own options as a child had been limited, and she wanted Kier to have the privilege of making a thoughtful choice about the best school for her.

After developing these clear goals for Kier’s school search, it was time to get to know Kier one-on-one. Whitney spent time with Kier on Zoom (due to the pandemic), playing get to know you games, chatting, and having deep conversations about what Kier really wanted out of her high school experience. Our admissions consulting process for middle and high schoolers relies heavily on giving students agency and confidence throughout a complex, time-consuming process, so Whitney spent time ensuring that Kier knew that she was in the driver's seat.

Once Whitney had formed a relationship with Leah, Kier, and Rob (and Bunny, Leah’s mom), it was time to dive into the details. Whitney drafted an initial school list of schools that aligned with the family’s values and goals. It was Kier’s job to research this list, checking out school websites, YouTube videos, course catalogs, and anything else she could find about each school. Whitney, Leah, and Kier would check in frequently to debrief their impressions of various schools, continuing to refine their wish list.

Then, Whitney developed Kier’s personalized Admissions Dashboard, a streamlined tool we use to organize the admissions process. This Dashboard included school-specific admissions checklists, a personalized timeline for Kier’s entire admissions process, a list of admissions essay prompts, links to open house registrations, and more. Whitney and Kier also set goals for how to manage the admissions process: how did Kier want to fit all of the research, essay-writing, etc. into her life? What did she define as success in the admissions process?

Over the next few months, Leah, Kier, and Whitney were in constant communication as Kier worked through the various steps of the admissions process. They brainstormed admissions essay themes and parent statement topics. They ensured that Kier and Leah were registered for virtual open houses, tours, and all of the other important admissions events. Ultimately, they began submitting the first stages of applications.

At that point, it was time for Kier to prepare for school interviews. Kier had never interviewed for anything before, so Whitney and Kier spent time getting comfortable with the interview process. They practiced story-telling, answers to typical interview questions, drafted unique questions for each school, and even picked out an outfit so Kier could feel comfortable and confident.

Kier also sat for school-specific admissions assessments, and Whitney debriefed the process with her after each one. The high school admissions journey can be an arduous one for students; there are a lot of steps, and many students feel more examined and judged than they ever have in their entire lives. That’s why Whitney spends a great deal of time with each of her students, checking in to see how they’re feeling, helping them manage stress, and reminding them that each to-do they check off is a major accomplishment.

Eventually, Kier neared the end of the interview process. She submitted her essays, activity surveys, graded writing samples, art portfolios, and more. She emailed her teachers to request recommendation letters, and Leah worked on getting Kier’s transcripts sent to each school. As the process wrapped up, Whitney, Leah, and Kier touched base every week to check on the status of each application and ensure that all missing pieces were followed up on.

Then the family kicked off the waiting game. For about a month, there’s nothing to do but sit and wait. During this time, Whitney spoke frequently with Leah and Kier. They debriefed the admissions process, weighed pros and cons of each school, and continually re-ranked Kier’s school list to reflect her latest feelings. Whitney worked to help the family keep their initial goals and values in mind, which is one of the most important parts of the entire admissions process. At Admit NY, we joke that we are one part therapists; keeping families motivated, feeling positive, and maintaining a healthy perspective is our job. Choosing a high school can feel extremely high stakes, but Whitney was there to remind Leah and Kier that high school is just one part of Kier’s path, and any decision would turn out just fine.

In February, it was time for a drumroll…. Kier received her admissions results! She received offers from her two top-choice schools. Both Leah and Kier were ecstatic! Kier ended up with options, which was what Leah and Kier were hoping for all along. Kier ultimately chose a school that aligned perfectly with her learning style, personality, and goals.

While Leah and Kier’s admissions process featured a few more TV cameras than our typical journey, it was actually very similar to our tried-and-true method. As always, we prioritized genuine connection between the family and our consultant, and spent time building a thoughtful, personalized student profile. From building a school list through submitting applications, we were there for the family every step of the way. And in the end, we were there to help the family make a decision when they had several excellent options. We’re so proud of Kier, and can’t wait to hear all about her experience at her chosen school!

Interested in working with Admit NY on your family’s admissions journey (nursery through high school)? Reach out today.